(MENAFN -Khaleej Times) Al Hammadi struck for the UAE in the 67th minute and Sergeev levelled for the home team in the 85th minute
Action from the AFC Asian Cup match between the UAE and Uzbekistan in Tashkent on Wednesday. — Supplied photo
Emirati side top group standings in AFC Asian Cup; Mahdi maintains his unbeaten runMahdi Ali guided the UAE lads to a well-deserved 1-1 away draw against hosts Uzbekistan in the final round of the group stage of the 2015 Australia AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers at the Buyondkor Stadium in Tashkent on Wednesday.Al Hammadi struck for the UAE in the 67th minute and Sergeev levelled for the home team in the 85th minute. Uzbekistan were reduced to 10-man in the injury-time of the tough clash. Tukhtakhujaev was booked twice and shown the way by the Korean referee with only three minutes remaining.With this result, Mahdi Ali maintained his unbeaten run in all his official encounters since he took over in August 2012, and collected 16 points from six starts in the qualifiers to top the standings table of Group-E as the Uzbeks have qualified on 11 points and qualified.Luckily, the UAE lads were able to end the first period in a goalless draw thanks to the fighting spirit of the cohesive defensive line and courageous saves by ’keeper Ali Khusaif coupled with the bad fortune of the Uzbek strikers.Towards the half hour mark, the Uzbeks sent the first warning to the UAE boys with Odil Ahmedov making everything on the right flank, but Igor Sergeev’s header of his perfect cross went few inches above the crossbar.It was simply a one-sided first half, during which Mahdi Ali players had to employ all legitimate and illegitimate means to stop their aggressive hosts. One minute later, Walid Abbas was forced to foul Sanjar and Djeparo’s free kick was brilliantly headed by Sergeev, but his attempt was blocked by keeper Ali Khusaif. However, despite the relentless attacks, and the repeated fouls by the UAE defenders, it was the Uzbek skipper Djeparov who has picked the first yellow card in the 34th minute after fouling UAE’s Walid Abbas. Two minutes before the break, Ahmed Khalil was booked on tough tackling.UAE head coach Mahdi Ali pulled out Sharjah midfielder Ahmed Khamis and sent in Ismail Al Hammadi.The UAE led shy move at the beginning of the second half, but Abdul Aziz Sanqoor’s shot went wide. Soon, the hosts regained command and put their opponents under pressure. Mahdi Ali men again were forced to retreat to their defensive zone and rely mainly on the counter attacks with speedy Ahmed Khalil redeployed to do the job of the only spearhead upfront. Towrads the 63rd minute, Ali substituted Habib Fardan with Mohammed Abdul Rahman to patrol the area and lift part of the pressure off the shoulders of their defenders. The Uzbek coach Qassimov retaliated with two replacements. Midfielder Khasanov substituted Rashidov and Iskandarov replaced Tursnov.Meanwhile, less than a minute later, the Al Jazira talented forward Ali Mabkhout controlled Walid Abbas’ through and employed his high skills to tackle two of the Uzbek defenders on the mouth of the box and passed to Al Hammadi who blinded the Uzbek libro and beat the goal keeper with a beautiful placing to put his side ahead contrary to the run of the match in the 67th minute.At this stage, the Uzbeks began to feel the threat of receiving their third straight home defeat besides their away 1-2 loss to their UAE opponents which was apparently not acceptable for the bog crowd which has packed the venue. Qassimov sent in Nagaev to replace Shodaev, but no improvement was achieved. But, the most exciting moment came in the 79th minute when Ahmed Khalil’s shot hit the left bar and Mabkhout’s rebound again hit the same spot and returned to him. The brilliant forward was arguably brought down by the Uzbek defender and the referee turned a blind to what could be a correct penalty kick. Instead, Mabkhout was booked. Ali made his third replacement with Salem Saleh who took the position of Ahmed Khalil.Sergeev headed home the perfect cross of Rashidov to cancel the UAE advantage in the 85th minute.